Off the back of a quarter-final exit from the Africa Cup of Nations, Tunisia take a trip to the Stade du 26 Mars to face Mali in the first of their two-legged World Cup playoffs clash on Friday.
Les Aigles, meanwhile, head into the game following an unbeaten run in the group stages of the qualifiers and will be looking to put their AFCON disappointments behind.
Mali saw their Africa Cup of Nations dreams come to an end in the quarter-finals on January 26, when they suffered a penalty shoot-out defeat to Equatorial Guinea.
This followed an unbeaten run in the group stages, where they won two and drew one of their three games to collect seven points and finish top of Group F, only above Gambia on goal difference.
Mali will look to pick up where they dropped off in the World Cup qualifiers where they have enjoyed a sensational run, progressing to the playoffs round after finishing top of Group E.
Mohamed Magassouba’s men picked up five wins and one draw from six group-stage games to collect 16 points and finish seven points above runners-up Uganda.
Les Aigles are currently unbeaten in 90 minutes in each of their last 11 competitive games across all competitions, claiming eight wins and three draws while conceding just once since a 1-0 loss against Guinea in the AFCON qualifiers back in March 2021.
Tunisia, on the other hand, picked up four wins, one draw and lost one of their six games to collect 13 points and secure top spot in Group B, two points above second-placed Equatorial Guinea.
The Carthage Eagles head into Friday’s game off the back of a quarter-final exit from the Africa Cup of Nations courtesy of a 1-0 loss to Burkina Faso on January 29, when Dango Ouattara netted on the stroke of half time to send Kamou Malo’s men to the semi-finals.
Tunisia have now lost two of their most recent three outings, with a 1-0 win over Nigeria in the AFCON last 16 being the exception, while they have lost four of their last six across all competitions.
This underwhelming run has been owing to their toothless display at the attacking end of the pitch as they have scored just five goals in that time, with four coming in a 4-0 win over Mauritania on January 16.
Lofti Kadri’s men have made five appearances at the World Cup, with their most recent coming in Russia 2018 and while they will be seeking a sixth appearance, standing in their way is an opposing side they have failed to defeat in exactly half of the last 12 meetings between the teams, losing five and claiming one draw since their first encounter in 1967.
Mali World Cup Qualifying – Africa form:
Mali form (all competitions):
Tunisia World Cup Qualifying – Africa form:
Tunisia form (all competitions):
We say: Mali 1-0 Tunisia
Tunisia have struggled for consistency in recent outings, losing four of their last six games in all competitions. They face the stern test of facing a defensively solid Mali side who have conceded just once in their last 11 competitive games. With the support of the home crowd, we predict Mali will prove a hard nut to crack for the Carthage Eagles and come out with a narrow victory.